Kids swamped by ads for junk food and alcohol

Posted 10 Sep 2020.

Joint Statement on Protecting Children from Unhealthy Food and Drink advertising

An audit of outdoor food advertising near Perth schools has found that three-quarters of the promotions were for junk food and alcohol.

Led by Dr Gina Trapp from the Telethon Kids Institute, the research project analysed outdoor advertising within 500 metres of 64 schools with the Perth metropolitan area.

The study found:

  • Alcohol was the most frequently advertised product, followed by fast food, then sugary drinks
  • There were 9-times as many advertisements for unhealthy foods as healthy foods
  • The proportion of food ads, unhealthy food and alcohol ads within 250m of schools was higher in lower socio-economic areas.

The research results provide further evidence to calls by Western Australia's leading non-government public health agencies for an immediate ban on the advertising of unhealthy food and drinks on State-owned assets, with no exceptions.

Sent this week to all State parliamentarians, the Joint Statement on Protecting Children from Unhealthy Food and Drink Advertising on State-owned Assets has been signed by Cancer Council WA, the Telethon Kids Institute, Heart Foundation, Public Health Association Australia (WA Branch), the Australian Medical Association (WA), Diabetes WA, Australian Dental Association (WA), Public Health Advocacy Institute of WA, and the Western Australian School Canteen Association.

Telethon Kids Institute Director Professor Jonathan Carapetis said it is clear that young people are being bombarded by junk food and alcohol advertising.

"Studies have shown that children and adolescents are influenced by these ads and that exposure to unhealthy advertising is directly linked to an increase in kilojoule consumption," Professor Carapetis says.

"One quarter of Australia's children are overweight or obese and that will take a terrible toll on those kids and our health system. It's untenable that state owned assets like public transport are used to promote unhealthy products that cost our system so much in the longer term."

Cancer Council WA CEO Ashley Reid said outdoor advertising was a particular concern as it's the only medium that can't be turned off, and directly undermines the government's preventative health priorities.

"No jurisdiction around the world has implemented a comprehensive ban on advertising for unhealthy food and beverages in public spaces or on publicly owned assets - WA has the chance to be a world leader," Mr Reid said.

"There is huge public support for getting junk food off public transport, with a Cancer Council survey conducted late in 2019 showing that 72 per cent of WA adults supported such a move."

The Joint Statement says priority for removal should be given to public transport and public transport waiting areas, children's sporting events, and venues where families gather; but should also include facilities and settings that fall under State and Local government jurisdiction such as hospitals, museums, schools, sports facilities and healthcare services.

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